Review: Underwhelmed at Jefferson Pools

IMG_7483When I heard there was a place in Virginia called “Warm Springs”, I was immediately curious to see if there was a bathhouse located in the county seat of Bath County. I mean they had to call it Bath County for a reason, right? Turns out I was right! A quick google search led me to the Jefferson Pools website, owned and operated by luxurious Omni Homestead Resort.

According to an article written by the University of Virginia,  the Gentleman’s Pool House is the oldest spa structure in the United States, built in 1761. Thomas Jefferson even visited the exact wooden structure surrounding the spring in 1817.

“Local legends say that Native Americans journeying through the valley discovered these magnificent crystal springs hundreds of years ago, and archaeological evidence seems to confirm that this area has been used by humans for at least 9,000 years.” – Jefferson Pools website

I love history and since the Jefferson Pools in Warm Springs, Virginia is only 80 miles directly north of Roanoke, I decided to check it out. To make a reservation I called the Omni Homestead Resort the same day I wanted to go to the warm spring. The woman I spoke with on the phone was very friendly and willing to answer my several questions. In order to reserve my spot, I had to give my credit card number over the phone, but my card wasn’t charged at that time. The reservation was non-refundable.

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You can see the sun through the crumbling roof in one of the changing rooms.

After reserving my spot, I pulled up reviews about the bathhouse and found that a lot of people commented on the terrible condition of the building the wood structure surrounding the spring is in. However, several people also noted that once they got in the water, they felt the experience was worth it despite the deteriorating building. So I imagined I may be able to enjoy my experience despite the lackluster appearance.

Boy, I was wrong.

The co-ed soaking for adults 18 and older is 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. so I arrived around 1:30 and waited in line to sign a waiver at the gift shop and paid $38 for two adults. We decided to soak in the men’s bathhouse because it is deeper than the women’s bathhouse. We were pointed in the direction of the bathhouse and walked over. As soon as we opened the doors to the building, we were greeted by our attendant. He immediately looked at my phone in my hand and told me I couldn’t bring my phone in there. “No pictures!” he nearly shouted. I asked if I had to go bring my phone to my car or if I could put it in my bag. “I don’t care where you put it, I just don’t want to see it out,” he said very gruffly. He then handed us each a towel and didn’t give us any directions where to go or what to do next. As soon as we stepped into the pool area, we quickly realized why they didn’t want us to take pictures. The wooden structure surrounding the warm spring is literally falling apart. There are holes in the ceiling, jagged edges and broken wood everywhere. The building literally looks like it will fall apart any second. The spring is surrounded by changing rooms with a curtain to close for privacy. After changing, we walked out to the pool and grabbed pool noodles to use to float with because the pool is pretty deep. When I grabbed the pool noodle, I noticed all of them were severely bent, looked really old and worn, and seemed to be covered in mildew.

The idea is to float and relax for an hour. But I just couldn’t relax when everywhere I looked I saw a building that is falling apart.

I was shocked at the condition of just about everything I set my eyes on. I also felt disappointed that such a historic structure had been left to rot and fall into disrepair. All the while, the luxury resort is collecting nearly $20 a ticket and charging people to use nearly unusable conditions.  I tried to make the best of it and close my eyes and relax in the warm water, but it was tough.

We ended up leaving well before the allotted time of one hour.

Overall, I would not recommend Jefferson Pools to anyone until the building is renovated and preserved.

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Review: Walking with ghosts in Salem

The large full moon loomed over us and there was a slight chill in the air as we followed a group of strangers into a cemetery at night, what could go wrong?

That’s usually the start of a scary movie, but luckily for us, our experience was not as spooky.

We were on a ghost walk hosted by the Salem Museum. The museum has been doing this walk for 18 years now, so we thought, there must be something to it.

IMG_5226When we first arrived, we easily bought our tickets ($10 for adults, $5 for students) at the front of the museum and were told we could check out the museum while we waited. We had about 15 minutes to meander through the exhibits and learned some intriguing stuff about Roanoke College. You’ll have to go check out the museum to see what we’re talking about.

At promptly 8 p.m., our guide holding a lantern led us out of the museum and into the cemetery across the street.

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The actor portraying Katie Dillard Robertson.

Each actor portrayed a ghost that was buried in the graveyard. They all told us stories of their lives and deaths, with one exception. The ghost of Katherine “Katie” Dillard Robertson told us another person’s story buried in the graveyard. She detailed a moment in time when crews digging on Chestnut Street discovered an ornate casket with a girl inside. The street crew ended up shattering the casket and the girl inside was never identified and has since been buried in the cemetery with her headstone labeled as “the Chestnut Street lady”.

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The actor portraying Brigadier General Andrew Lewis on the Salem Ghost Walk.

Walking from person to person was exciting and each story was a great one. Our group couldn’t help but break out into applause after some of the performances. One of our favorites was the story of Andrew Lewis, a revolutionary war hero and friend of George Washington, who had many claims to fame.

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The Deyerle Brothers

I would have to say the award for best acting and most in character would have to go to the actors playing the ghosts of the Deyerle Brothers, who talked about their time in the Mexican War and Civil War. The banter between the three was really funny and they interacted with the crowd fully in character. They wouldn’t even break character when I stopped to take a picture.

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Actor portraying Susan Price

We loved all of the ghosts, but one that does stick out was the performance of Susan Price, who described what African-American life was like after the civil war. She explained why we had to walk over from East Hill Cemetery to East Hill North Cemetery to see her. It’s because back in the day, white and black people were not buried in the same areas. She spoke of the areas of Salem that were segregated and was a great representation of the history of the people that weren’t able to be buried with great monuments across the street at the highest point of land like some of the other characters we had heard from that night.

Overall, it was a great Halloween type activity that didn’t require us to scream at things jumping out at us. Instead, it was an educational and thought-provoking lesson on the people who made an impact not just in Salem, but in all of Virginia and beyond.

Check out our slideshow of the night:

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Roanoke joins the mead movement

The Hive Tasting Room

Blacksnake Mead owners and husband-wife team: Steve and Joann Villers.

It’s hard to not notice the bright yellow painted building on Main Street in the Wasena neighborhood in Roanoke. I’ve driven past it several times and always wondered what was there. The only thing I could make out while driving by was a beehive on the door, I assumed it was some kind of local honey shop. Alas, today I got the answer I was looking for at Blacksnake Meadery’s grand opening of their tasting room they are calling “The Hive Tasting Room.”

IMG_5211Do you know what mead is? To be honest, I didn’t until I attended the grand opening. I knew it was something people drank at medieval festivals, but that’s about it. Turns out it’s made from fermented honey and is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages in the world. The husband-wife team, Steve and Joann Villers, who own the place have been making mead for more than a decade in Caroll County. But they live in Roanoke and wanted to bring their mead a little bit closer to home.

We are excited they did!

IMG_5191Everything about the tasting room is really cute. We are loving the beehive theme throughout the shop, the decor definitely makes sense since mead is made from honey. Get this, the Villers are also beekeepers. So all of their mead is made from their own honey or Virginia honey.

They offer flights of honey and mead. But if you aren’t very adventurous, they also have wine on hand.

IMG_5216At their grand opening, they were offering samples of their mead. It was my first time trying it and didn’t have any expectations about what it might taste like. The first tasting was of their Hoppy Bee Brew. It is described by the meadery as the following:

“A lower-alcohol, dry mead carbonated by bottle-conditioning. Cascade hops give it grapefruit aromas and flavors. Gluten-free, no sulfites added.”

I thought it tasted familiar and it was lightly carbonated. The hops were light in taste but came through just enough to give you the sense that you had a sweet beer in your hand. At the same time, it reminded me a lot of a Moscato wine. So it tasted like wine, with a slight hint of hops. I liked it and would drink it again. It would probably go great with a burger and pizza.

IMG_5194The next sample was their Lime Bee Brew, described by the meadery as:

“Another lower alcohol, bottle-conditioned, carbonated mead. We dilute our own wildflower honey and add fresh lime puree to produce a unique, tart, thirst-quenching brew. Complements spicy foods such as Mexican or Thai. Gluten-free.”

This one was fun to drink. Up front, you definitely catch the lime, but on the back end, you are hit with the unmistakable sweetness of honey. It was sweet, but not too sweet. I could also see myself drinking this again. Hook me up with some tacos and a glass of this and you’ve got it made.

IMG_5214The last sample I tried was the Sweet Virginia with coffee. I couldn’t find the coffee version listed on their website, but this is what the Sweet Virginia is described by the meadery as:

“Semi-sweet traditional mead made from honey from our hives diluted with mountain well water.  Unboiled and sulfite/sorbate added.”

This one literally tasted like coffee and honey. It was darker than the other two, it wasn’t carbonated, and it seemed to pack a little bit more of a punch. If you are a coffee lover, you would definitely love this. I could easily see myself eating a piece of chocolate cake and taking sips of this mead. Don’t judge me,  but I bet I could drink it in the morning too.

IMG_5221Overall, I’m excited they opened their tasting room in Roanoke and I can’t wait to go back and hang out there.

If you want to check it out, here are the details:

The Hive Tasting Room

  • Located at 1116 Main Street in the Wasena neighborhood
  • Open Thursday through Sunday, weekdays 4:30 to 8 PM and weekends 1-8 PM.
  • Check out their website and Facebook page.

Also if you are interested in a road trip, you can always check out their meadery in Caroll County and try their mead on their “Sippin Porch”

Sippin’ Porch (605 Buffalo Road, Dugspur, VA) – SEASONAL April- Nov
(540) 834-6172
Saturday & Sunday 11:00-5:00

 

New health food store set to open in Roanoke

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When I moved here to Roanoke, I have to admit, I was surprised the area did not have a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. For those who had similar feelings when they first moved to Roanoke, I have good news! Asheville based grocery store Earth Fare, a store that touts itself as “the authentic specialty organic and natural foods grocery store” is set to open. It is located near Mellow Mushroom at 2203 Franklin Road SW.

Here’s an excerpt of what Earth Fare says it will provide:

Since 1975, Earth Fare has distinguished itself as a leader in the healthy foods industry by developing a unique Food Philosophy that informs every product offered in the store. This Food Philosophy ensures that all products sold are free of high fructose corn syrup, artificial fats and trans-fats, artificial colors, artificial preservatives, artificial sweeteners, bleached or bromated flour, and are never administered antibiotics or growth hormones. In addition, Earth Fare recently announced that its more than 750 private brand food products are now sourced using only non-GMO ingredients, and new products are added to the shelves each day.

In addition to groceries, the store will also feature an organic cafe and juice bar. If you are wanting something quick to grab for lunch, the store will also have a salad bar, hot foods bar, pizza station, and sandwich counter.

The store will host a grand opening celebration November 8 just before 7 a.m.

If you want to go check it out, there are these perks involved:

  • Mystery gift card giveaway valued at up to $500 to the first 100 shoppers
  • Free samples
  • Product demonstrations
  • Live music

The festivities will continue through opening week with promotions, raffles, product samples and family friendly entertainment.

November 8 is a month away, so if you are too excited for the grand opening, in the meantime you can enter this contest for a $100 gift card.

Science and craft beer!

beerCombine craft beer and learning science, all for a good cause. What more could you want?

The Science Museum of Western Virginia is hosting their monthly STEM Tavern next Wednesday at Soaring Ridge Brewing.

Stem stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. It’s a great way to learn about interesting science topics while drinking a delicious craft beer.

Plus for every beer sold, Soaring Ridge will make a donation to the Science Museum of Western Virginia.

At their October 11 event, the speaker will be Kari Zacharias, who is a PhD candidate in Science, Technology, and Society at Virginia Tech and a researcher at the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT). The topic will be “Living at the Nexus of Science, Engineering, Art, and Design”.

The STEM Tavern takes place every 2nd Wednesday of each month at 5:30 pm at Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers (523 Shenandoah Ave.). Talks start at 6 pm!

It’s wine month in Virginia!

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It is the official wine month in Virginia! It’s a time to celebrate all of the wonderful vineyards in Virginia. There is no shortage to the list either, the Commonwealth has 280 + wineries. Here in the Roanoke area, there are at least 25 wineries within immediate driving distance.

According to the Virginia Wine, this October is the 29th year of Virginia Wine Month.

Click here to see a list of the vineyards in the state.

The state-wide celebration will include promotions and events all month long.

IMG_7418Check out some of these events at wineries this month to celebrate!

Hickory Hills Vineyards – Moneta, Va

Cabs by the Campfire
October 7 & 14
4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Event description:

Join us for an evening by the campfire where we will have a vertical Cabernet tasting available from our library stock. The regular wine list will be available by the glass or bottle to enjoy while we watch the campfire flames dance. Select library vintages will be for sale. Please bring chairs and/or blankets. Scheduled to perform October 7th is Kat Mills. Scheduled to perform October 14th is Ed McNamara.

Beliveau Estate Winery- Blacksburg, Va

Hallowine
Saturday, October 28
7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Event description:

Beliveau Estate’s annual Halloween Party! There will be live music, prizes for the best costume and of course, great wine!

$10 for general public, members are free.

We’ll add more events to the list as we get them!

Ghost walking in Salem, Virginia

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It is officially October!

For those of you who love all things scary, this is your month.

If you aren’t into the completely spooky Halloween activities, a ghost walk full of history may be more your speed.

I, for one, am not into being scared so you won’t see me at one of those haunted houses where people in scary costumes jump out at you. But not all of our staff at Star City Living feel that way and later in the month, we will feature the top spooky activities to do in the Roanoke area.

One thing I will agree to do around Halloween is ghost walks or tours. I like those because they are usually filled with history lessons, rather than the manufactured “boo!” type scariness.

Apparently, others feel the same way I do, because a spokesman at the Salem Museum recently announced they are reviving its popular annual Ghost Walk through East Hill Cemetery October 5-7. The event has gone on for 18 years and is so well attended they are even adding another ghost event at Sherwood Memorial Park with a new cast of characters from Salem’s past October 12-14. The new event is not a ghost walk, but a ghost performance.

“Guests will visit Salem’s graveyards to meet characters from the past – real people who made an impact on the history of Salem, the Roanoke Valley, and beyond. Each ghost will tell his or her own story,” a press release states.

If this sounds like your kind of scary, you should check out either the walk or the performance.

Want to go? Here are the details:

The Ghost Walk at East Hill Cemetary and East Hill North

  • October 5-7
  • Walking tours leave Salem Museum every 15 minutes starting at 6 p.m., the last tour leaves at 8 p.m.
  • Good walking shoes are recommended.

The Ghost Walk at Sherwood Memorial Park Amphitheater

  • October 12-14
  • The performance begins at 7 p.m. at the amphitheater.
  • The guests will be seated for the performance and are invited to bring folding chairs, cushions, or blankets.

FYI

  • Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students. You can buy them here.
  • The tour is suitable for all ages.
  • Rain location is at the Salem Museum.

Launching Star City Living

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Star City Living has officially launched. A group of us decided to launch Star City Living after feeling like the city lacked a lifestyle type news magazine that was updated on a regular basis. The closest type blog that kept us informed when it comes to the fun things to do in this area is Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge. They do a fantastic job targeting their audience, who are understandably tourists. We also welcome tourists to our blog, but also want to offer the latest news on events, up and coming restaurants/businesses, and hyperlocal news that directly impacts those that are proud to call the Roanoke Valley and surrounding areas home.

We want to offer the latest news on events, up and coming restaurants/businesses, and hyperlocal news that directly impacts those that are proud to call the Roanoke Valley and surrounding areas home. Since our initiative is just a baby right now, we don’t have very much posted on our website, but we are working on it! Eventually, we hope to post several articles a day and include video and photos.

We are a volunteer-based staff who are already doing fun things out in the community and now are excited to write about it and share our adventures.

If you would like to submit an article to us and become a contributor, we welcome it!

Feel free to message us on Facebook with any article ideas.

Full disclosure:

Millenials

We are millennials, so some of these articles will be targeted toward fellow millennials but we hope our content will be universal enough to reach all audiences and age groups.

We are targeting a millennial audience right now, not only because we can relate, but also because there is a need right now. Let’s face it, young people are jaded by traditional news outlets. Why tune into the news when their target audience is people twice our age? The world is digital and I don’t know a lot of people my age that sit around waiting to see the evening news or willing to pay for newspaper content on a website hidden behind a paywall.

Some traditional news outlets are struggling to adapt to this digital era and as a result, are losing an entire audience. We are hoping to fill that void. At the same time, we aren’t pretending to be an online news magazine, we will have a more casual lifestyle type vibe.

We hope to fill you in on the following:

  • Things to do/events worth and not worth your time
  • Outdoor adventure reviews
  • Up and coming projects that may affect your home values or quality of life
  • Spotlights on hardworking people in our community working to change Roanoke for the better
  • Fun day trips within driving distance
  • New restaurant/brewery reviews
  • Relevant financial advice from experts who will break it down in a way that is easy to understand.
  • Well-being (Having a quarter-life crisis? Some of us have been there, we can help out)

and so much more…

Not Roanoke natives

Some of us on staff are brand new to the area and are experiencing and seeing the city with fresh eyes and appreciation. Roanoke is a beautiful up and coming city that has seen incredible growth in recent years. Many are just now taking notice of this area and realizing all of the wonderful things this hidden gem of a city has to offer. So whether you are a new resident or a native Roanoker, let’s discover and rediscover this city together.

Stick with us, we have big plans for Star City Living.